January 13, 2021

RECEIVED: CHANGING THE FACE OF CANLIT

Dane Swan's hefty new anthology of prose and poetry, Changing the Face of Canadian Literature (Guernica), has been at my elbow for a few weeks now. Thirty contributors (and an A-to-Z of recommended reading that will take you through a year if you read one a week) activate the title.

A few highlights:

  • Sennah Yee's graceful turns: ask me where I'm from / and I'll just say the same thing / o, Canada, duh and  you're frightened that I've / flourished right in the hyphen / that you've slapped on me ("5 Haiku for/from Canada")
  • Doretta Lau's nimble leaps among time, place and memory: I had early acceptance and a full scholarship to the university I'd gone to for free dental care as a child. ("At Core We Think They Will Kill Us")
  • Mary Pinkowski's ghosts and echoes: I do not know if / I am more in love with the moon or the tide / With the return or with the escape ("Let the Ghosts Out: A suite of poems")
  • Ian Keteku's powerful compressions: And once I checked out the story of my life. And returned it, the next day. ("And...")
  • Klara du Plessis's verbal layers and excavations: The verbose darkness of metropolitan / public gardens, punished by tiny welts // leaves leave on wet sidewalks. ("Essay dwellers")

Dane Swan's foreword draws some lines between multiculturalism in Canada's national identity and diversity (or, until recently, lack of) in its literary identity. He positions this anthology as a celebration:  "Congratulations, Canada," Swan writes in closing, "you finally have a literature that looks like the people who inhabit you."

Available from the press. Read Quill & Quire's starred review.